If one was to ask a selection of females to reflect back to before they started their periods and comment on their expectations on beginning the menstruation cycle, one would be very surprised as to the range of answers they would receive. ‘Red letter day’ or ‘P day’ is approached by young girls in a variety of ways. There are those who are fully prepared and excited to enter ‘womanhood’, others totally ignorant about this day and the future changes of her body and some are nervous about how what she does know is going to pan out. When the day comes, it is greeted with a host of emotions. Most are prepared in what they are going to observe and do, however, some girls are surprised to feel some stomach cramps prior and during their period. This is very natural, predominantly mild and not debilitating yet can be uncomfortable for some. In most cases these menstrual cramps are known as ‘primary dysmenorrhea’. They are predominantly caused by excessive prostaglandin produced in the uterus. Prostaglandin is a natural substance created in the inner lining of the uterus in order to facilitate contractions of the uterine muscles required to help shed the lining built up during the menstrual cycle. When too much prostaglandin is produced there are more intense cramps. Heavy flow can also contribute to the pain especially with women who have not given birth. Heavy flow and clots have to squeeze through the small opening of the cervix, stretching it causing pain. After birth this area has widened giving reason as to why some women’s cramps subside.
As with all pain, pain relief is top of the agenda. Many women begin using Ibuprofen, Naproxen or some other kind of pain reliever which work by stopping the body from making prostaglandins and prevent blood clotting. However, it is often recommended to take them before you get the cramps to short-circuit the pain process thus one needs to have a very regular menstrual cycle in order to avoid taking them for days before ‘just in case’. In reference to this, it is well known that these types of pain relievers, being NSAIDs, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often irritate womens’ stomachs with frequent usage causing gastrointestinal complications so you definitely don’t want to be taking them as a preventative. Some women choose to take the birth control pill instead as this can lessen the menstrual flow and cramps. However, again, due to possible side effects of the Pill, a female is required to weigh up the pros and cons.
In general, all medications can have short and long term unwanted side effects which are in no way uncommon. Self-treatments have proven to be very successful with no undesirable side effects, in fact only positive effects. Exercise being one, although those experiencing a lot of pain can’t always get themselves up, hot baths and a TENS machine . TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a non-invasive, self-controlled, drug-free method of pain relief. It is ideal for the treatment of painful menstruation. Pads are placed on or near the area of pain. The battery operated hand-held device is switched on and sends soothing pulses via the pads through the skin and along the nerve fibres. These pulses suppress the pain signals from entering the brain thus no pain is registered. The TENS machine pulses also encourage the body to produce higher levels of its own natural pain killing chemicals called Endorphins and Encephalins. A great benefit of TENS is that it is small and discreet and can therefore be worn during daily activity or rest. It is also a one time affordable buy and can be used for pain relief for so many other areas of the body.
Share with us your painful menstrual experiences along with any pain relief you have used.